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Sprint Spark devices can't handle calls and data at the same time

Posted: , by Alan F.

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Sprint Spark devices can't handle calls and data at the same time
While Sprint Spark has been touted by the carrier for current data speeds as fast as 60Mbps and for possible future speeds of 120Mbps using carrier aggregation, the tri-band LTE service does take a step backward when it comes to multitasking. According to Consumer Reports, Sprint customers using Sprint Spark will not be able to talk on the phone and browse the web at the same time.

Sprint's current LTE service allows customers to use data and voice simultaneously. Before the days of LTE service, mobile subscribers using a CDMA carrier like Sprint, could not use data and talk at the same time. On the other hand, this was a feature that those using a GSM carrier are accustomed to having. Now, those connected to an LTE pipeline have the ability to talk and check their email, or browse the web, at the same time.

Sprint has made a statement admitting that Sprint Spark does not allow for simultaneous use of voice and data. But the carrier adds that the tri-band LTE service does offer improved coverage, a higher quality of voice and data service, and improved battery performance.

"Sprint Spark devices leverage eCSFB technology (enhanced Circuit Switch Fall Back) which enables single radio functionality in the handset. This allows Sprint to leverage the many benefits of Network Vision, including the ability to utilize multiple CDMA and LTE spectrum bands efficiently. Although, simultaneous voice and LTE is not supported on new Sprint Spark devices, it does provide improved coverage, quality of voice and data service, as well as improved battery performance."-Statement from Sprint

Will the inability of Sprint Spark to handle voice and data at the same time, limit its ability to attract new subscribers to Sprint? Would it be enough of an issue as to lead to an exodus of current Sprint subscribers? We won't know the answers to those questions until the service starts rolling out in earnest. By the end of this year, Sprint Spark will cover 100 million Americans. By 2016, the service will be in 100 markets.

source: ConsumerReport via PocketNow via MobileBurn

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posted on 04 Apr 2014, 15:26 2

1. firestarter2 (Posts: 16; Member since: 24 Jan 2012)

Sprint is a Joke of a company I was a long time sprint customer and was happy with them. But there leadership and decision making is questionable..

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 15:31 1

3. Finalflash (Posts: 3083; Member since: 23 Jul 2013)

What they are still doing with CDMA is beyond me. If I were them I would start hardcore updating to the next standard instead of propping and dressing up this current skeleton more.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 17:13

26. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)

I wonder and does anyone know if this could be the reason sprint is pushing to launch HD voice nationwide? Does HD voice allow simultaneous calls on spark? It does strike me as odd because in the non spark markets you can simultaneous voice and data this with no problem. At any rate when VoLTE is available this problem will go away. Plus before I would call this a CDMA problem think about it that has not changed the defiance is the way LTE is handled in spark 800 MHz 1900 MHz and 2.5 GHz transmitting and receiving at the same time. Is anyone else using simultaneous frequencies on LTE worldwide?

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 17:36

30. TheRequiem (Posts: 240; Member since: 23 Mar 2012)

CDMA will be non-existent in a few years after everything updates to LTE.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 17:38 1

31. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)

I bet it will take longer than that BTW hspa+ is CDMA

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 18:27 3

35. miles16852 (Posts: 241; Member since: 20 Oct 2011)

WRONG!! ITS GSM!! what are you smoking!?!

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 21:27

39. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)

it may be concidered GSM but it uses a CDMA carrier, do some reaserch. Why do you think they call it wcdma?


also the packet data version of cdma is cdma-revB and the us carriers decided to skip packet data cdma and go right to LTE

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 00:05 2

44. true1984 (Posts: 823; Member since: 23 May 2012)

wcdma and the cdma2000 used by vzw and sprint are completely different

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 23:57

56. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)

not true there are many things the technologies have in common. The biggest differance is they are adapted to be backwords compatable with a certain 2g technology. WCDMA is backwords compatible with GSM. CDMA2000 EVDO, are backwords compatible with IS95


posted on 06 Apr 2014, 11:42

57. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

UMTS' WCDMA has nothing to do with GSM's TDMA and is not backwards compatible with it. That's why 3G GSM needed new bands while 3G CDMA used the same data slices as 2G CDMA but with a more spectrum-efficient modulation.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 21:54

41. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)

Here is the history I remember from the qualcomm vs ericsson patent dispute in the mid to late 90's the biggest differance between UMTS (w-cdma) and cdmaone currentley refered to as CDMA was the bandwidth require for the channels 1.25mhz for CDMAone and 5mhz for UMTS with some other minor tweaks they could have been compatible

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 08:56

46. lsutigers (Posts: 820; Member since: 08 Mar 2009)

Sprint (along with Verizon and AT&T) still have a lot of 2G/3G enterprise customers using M2M (machine to machine) services which they still need to support. Many of these M2M applications don't have the bandwith requirement of LTE. Some 2G and definitely 3G, at all major carriers whether GSM or CDMA, will be around for a long time.

posted on 14 Nov 2014, 23:38

61. ajc1973 (Posts: 2; Member since: 01 Nov 2014)

verizon is cdma

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 15:32 3

5. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

CDMA is a joke of access method. No wonder that it's found customer practically only int he US, where companies can donate enough to a senator's campaign to get whatever it wants.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:39

22. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)

spark is a LTE network its not CDMA, LTE is generally considered to be fourth generation GSM

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:54 2

25. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

Voice calls still go through CDMA. With Spark, they use the CDMA band to have LTE in it. Without a CDMA voice channel, there can be no voice calls util VoLTE is supported by the network and devices.

I'd think that Sprint throttles Spark by giving up the CDMA band when a voice call is needed, alas...

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 17:23

27. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)

Maybe, but with the non spark markets sprint just uses the 1900mhz for both LTE and CDMA simultaneously. I used it today and it works flawlessly. If what you’re saying it true this is very easy to fix just leave 10 MHz reserved for voice on CDMA and problem solved

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 12:50

49. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

In order to use the same band for CDMA and LTE, CDMA uses half of the spectrum and LTE, the other half. This means that LTE performance will be 3G-like, the reason why speed in the Sprint network where it hasn't deployed the 2500 band suffers.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 17:35 8

29. TheRequiem (Posts: 240; Member since: 23 Mar 2012)

Yeah 5 years ago... the new leadership, Dan Hesse and Co as well as Chairman Masayoshi Son and their new network directors have a very strong track record of doing what they say they are going to do.

I think Consumer Reports is out of the loop, everything will be LTE in a few years... and voice will migrate to VoLTE so I think they are making a big deal about nothing. Sprint has also said this will change with newer devices this year and that they will support both at same time. This is a limitation of the chips that are being made for their tri-band network, not a network letdown. With that being said, Sprint will have the upper advantage in a few years time. They are the only carrier that even has a tri-band LTE network. Coverage, Workhorse and Capacity bands.

As soon as they finish up their Network VIsion transition by mid year and launch Spark Nationwide, they will own the speed crown and have a pretty widespread LTE Network. Masayoshi Son said he will start a major price war and build thousands of new towers and small cells. I think he's putting his money where his mouth is, Sprint has cleared $32 billion for Network Upgrades over the next few years so all these Sprint Bashing Trolls are getting old. Get over it and go with another carrier and keep quiet.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 17:41

32. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)

well said!!

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 12:51

50. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

"Everything will be LTE"

Mind you, it took 30 years for AMPS (analog cell) to be decommissioned.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 22:16

43. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)

So I read the article and the comments and it seems to me that this not that big of a deal more than likely something that can be fixed with a software revision. Sprints non spark network supports simultaneous voice and data but spark does not. All Sprint would be to do is make a software revision that when a voice call is answered to use the service like the non spark networks simple. When you end the call go back into spark mode. It would not be as fast but would solve the problem. I would be shocked if they don’t all ready know this and have a fix in the works

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 15:27

2. black02wing (Posts: 30; Member since: 05 Feb 2007)

No Spark for Sprint.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 15:31 4

4. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 12958; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)

Who talks and browses the Internet on their phone anyways?

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 15:39

7. tigermcm (Posts: 855; Member since: 02 Sep 2009)

I've never used it never had a reason to use it, it's a gimmick

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:51 2

23. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)

I use it ocasionally but you are right not very often, at any rate when voice moves to LTE this will not be a problem anymore

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 15:48 4

8. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

How about sending an email while on a conference call? On Sprint, nope, can't do that.

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 00:08

45. true1984 (Posts: 823; Member since: 23 May 2012)

well you can actually, just not on spark

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 15:59 6

9. Finalflash (Posts: 3083; Member since: 23 Jul 2013)

That happens all the time, you might be talking and need to check something mentioned by someone. Or maybe they're all like, "DAAAMMMN did you see that shot" on that live stream you're watching on the go. I can't imagine not having the ability to do both, half the time I have to go through patient details with someone on the phone while on my way to and from work to get a head start.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:10 7

10. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10456; Member since: 14 May 2012)

I do and so do millions of other people.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:21 2

17. jroc74 (Posts: 6004; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Ppl that want to help someone or themselves.

Talking on my phone...someone ask some question about something, anything. I can fire up the web and lend a helping hand. Same if I am on the phone and want, need to know something thats a website away.

I have done it enough to say...its not a gimmick. For me.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:24 1

18. firestarter2 (Posts: 16; Member since: 24 Jan 2012)

People who sit on conference calls or use google maps while talking

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:27 3

20. JunitoNH (Posts: 1774; Member since: 15 Feb 2012)

My biggest gripe with the Verizon's iPhone, no talk and surf. If you wanted to share mms with friends during phone conversations you can't. If you wanted to say, provide directions, or look-up a business, well you can't do either. Hopefully, there's wifi near by.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:34 2

21. ZayZay (Posts: 571; Member since: 26 Feb 2011)

I actually use it while on conference calls with work, or if I need to look up something while on the phone with the wife. Not every has to use it for it to be useful, but it is great when you do actually need it.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 17:27 3

28. 3rdDegree (Posts: 213; Member since: 13 Jul 2013)

Me, especially when I'm on hold with customer service for ages

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 21:27 1

40. hurrycanger (Posts: 1562; Member since: 01 Dec 2013)

Those who multitask. :)

posted on 10 Oct 2014, 03:24

59. sirlknig (Posts: 1; Member since: 10 Oct 2014)

It's not just used for surfing and talking, it's for getting information for a customer or a friend that might be lost or need direction you can access this information while on the phone.you might have a love one lost and need your help you can go to map while on the phone.

posted on 31 Oct 2014, 07:00

60. Syilmaz994 (Posts: 1; Member since: 31 Oct 2014)

The whole reason I searched this article was because I tried to search webmaster while my wife was on the phone with me about me child's fever. Yes it's very important for me to rank and surf

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 15:38

6. kevv2288 (unregistered)

Anyone know why att phones wont let you use lte while on a phone call? I had the s4 and now the note 3 and both will switch to regular 4g whenever I make a call. Yes I know you can't make calls over lte yet but when I had Verizon I could make phone calls and still be connected to lte so obviously is possible to do?

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:13 3

13. WillieFDiaz (Posts: 118; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

For GSM, the call throws the phone back to HSPA/HSPA+ and off LTE. This is how their work around is done until VoLTE takes place. In contrast, it is keeping the exact same performance levels and familiarity as 3G has, voice and data at the same time, using the same channels.

For CDMA, there was no simultaneous voice and data unless the device and network both supported SVDO which was only supported by a handful of devices on Verizon and Sprint (Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC Thunderbolt are the only two I know of) that allowed this. 3G voice calls and 3G data. When it came to 4G, the first batch of devices Sprint had, had two antennas, one for CDMA/EVDO one for LTE, so both were on at the same time. The problem was poor battery life, and connections always flipping from LTE to EVDO and back. With Spark, to integrate all spectrum frequencies and carrier aggregation, they had to have only one radio, then use software to merge the calls and data into one channel, CSFB (Circuit Switched Fall Back) which is only enabled in Spark areas, and worse, if you have a Spark device and do not live in a Spark area, even if LTE is launched, if CSFB has not been upgraded (hint, it is not upgraded in over 70% of the network) then your device will NEVER connect to LTE in that area, and will only connect to EVDO. The phone is still a phone, and your calls are more important, so it wants to keep that ability over using the single radio for data. When you are on LTE, CSFB will send a signal to the phone, move back to EVDO to take the call, or text, and then it will, when the call is done, it will flip back to LTE.

Sprint claiming this is better for battery life, is not false, however Sprint claiming this makes better calls and improvements IS false. It actually makes customers more frustrated as even in Network Vision upgraded areas, 3G EVDO is still performing as horribly as ever, leaving customers like me, with a 4G phone that doesnt work, rarely can speed on 3G and phone calls that do not sound better, in fact, drop left and right.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 17:45

33. TheRequiem (Posts: 240; Member since: 23 Mar 2012)

They know this.... their network is being rebuilt from the ground up and is undergoing major calibration. I know this because I am contracted by Alcatel Lucent to calibrate the new network on the west coast. After they rebuild a single tower, it can take me 2 - 4 weeks to calibrate the systems and antenna's. I have to drive around a certain radius and measure everything and Speed. In the area's that are completed, Sprint currently has the lowest drop rate of all 3 major carriers. Most new sites have less then a 1% drop rate, but the problem is, the company has over 8 thousand sites being calibrated right now. When they are done with the transition dropped calls and slow data speeds will be a thing of the past. They just installed 400gbps fiber lines across the country (the fastest backhaul of any carrier) and we are currently working to get them connected to the site feed's. Speed will be significantly improved once we get these hooked up to the ethernet ports on the site. The new technology is light years ahead of all the other carriers and in a few years time Sprint will be in a dominating position network wise.

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 18:22

52. jroc74 (Posts: 6004; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

This all sounds good and I hope its true or translates to real world results.

I had to leave Verizon recently...and I dont plan on going back. But for overall coverage...its a reason Verizon is considered the best.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:17 1

16. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

EVDO uses the same CDMA channel (850 or 1900MHz) as voice, whereas LTE has its own data channel and thus leaves the CDMA channel available for voice, like UMTS, which has its own data channels independent of the GSM voice channels.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:11

11. kzat82 (Posts: 27; Member since: 26 Dec 2013)

People make calls on their phones? what

But seriously, I have never needed to be on my phone and using data at the same time. I don't think that's an excessively necessary feature.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:13 1

12. Philarge (Posts: 4; Member since: 10 Dec 2012)

For those speaking on CDMA verizon uses CDMA and there are plenty of Verizon fan boys on this site

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:14 4

14. DinoSquad (Posts: 1; Member since: 18 Sep 2013)

A lot of people will use Google Maps, and while driving, will take phone calls over the speaker. Using voice and data at the same time is Android 101. Someone at Sprint should be fired for pouring millions of dollars into a network that cant do such a basic task.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:54 2

24. downphoenix (Posts: 3165; Member since: 19 Jun 2010)

Someone should do the same to whoever decided that on Verizon too, since they use the same tech.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 19:34 1

37. Mrmark (Posts: 276; Member since: 26 Jan 2013)

Not the same technology!

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 12:54

51. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

Both Sprint and Verizon suffer from this issue:http://cnet.co/1jh860D

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 18:28

53. jroc74 (Posts: 6004; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Thats specific to the phone. I had no problems with my RAZR and RAZR Maxx.

Slammer posted about it below...its the hardware in the iPhone thats the issue...not LTE. It even mentions it in that link.

That said...its a limitation of CDMA LTE right now. Extra antenna is needed to take advantage of it. Another plus for GSM networks.

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 19:31

54. Augustine (Posts: 1043; Member since: 28 Sep 2013)

Extra antenna for extra band. Where Sprint splits the 1900MHz band between CDMA and LTE, any phone can only do either. BTW, this sharing of the band for both technologies is why Sprint LTE can be painfully slow where Sprint hasn't rolled out LTE in the 2500MHz band.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:15 1

15. rallyguy (Posts: 620; Member since: 13 Mar 2012)

GM had the same problem with the iPhone3G I believe.
Technically Sprint could do this before LTE on WiMax.

I am surprised that a new system wouldn’t offer this, I'm sure that was a tradeoff for something they felt offered more.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 19:38

38. reckless562 (banned) (Posts: 1153; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)

lol and i DID do it!!!! all the time on my Sprint EVO 4G!!!! (with kickstand!) thats y i didnt get an Iphone!!!!

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 22:00

42. tuminatr (Posts: 773; Member since: 23 Feb 2009)

it actually work on sprints non spark markets flawlessly voice and data simultaneously so it sounds like a limitation to the chipsets, VoLTE would make this a non issue

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 16:25

19. jroc74 (Posts: 6004; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

This has got the be the biggest fail of fails for Sprint.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 18:10

34. Slammer (Posts: 1515; Member since: 03 Jun 2010)

It's odd to me that something seems missing from this article. Sprint claims Spark can't do both Data and Voice calls at the same time. However, LTE and CDMA can.

With Sprint's future handsets offering Spark, they will also have LTE and CDMA radios. Mythought process is that Spark is designed for data only anyways. If someone wants to cconnect to both data and voice, spark is not needed. LTE should provide the same directive that many are not taking into consideration. Sprint will still offer simutaneous voice and data. Just not through Spark. This is good because those that want lightning fast data "or" great voice calls will use spark. This frees up the spectrum for those that want to do "both" at the same time thus leading to not loading down the network.

I maybe wrong. But, if I am correct on this, Sprint customers will have a huge advantage over the other carriers through Sprint's carrier aggregation network.

John B.

posted on 04 Apr 2014, 19:33 1

36. Slammer (Posts: 1515; Member since: 03 Jun 2010)


I see the handsets for spark will not offer the proper internal capabilities.

John B.

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 10:16

47. skymitch89 (Posts: 1299; Member since: 05 Nov 2010)

I don't get why they don't make it so that when a call is made that call uses that specific band & "Spark" switches to one of the other bands for LTE.

posted on 24 Nov 2014, 07:40

62. jwalker55 (Posts: 11; Member since: 23 Jul 2012)

That's because this has absolutely nothing to do with "Spark". It is a device limitation due to having only a single radio. Try tuning a single FM radio to 2 stations at once and let me know how it works for you. The only solution to this problem is for Sprint and OEM's to design their phones with 2 or more radios. Some of the first generation Sprint LTE devices supported voice and LTE simultaneously because they had a separate radio for LTE.

posted on 05 Apr 2014, 10:46

48. kg4icg (Posts: 77; Member since: 18 May 2008)

You know something funny. You guys are reporting this as news today when it has been known since last year. Oh boy talking about being late to the game.

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